“...there isn’t a lot of torture in these cases and in the main they are relatively quick, what we call blitz attacks, extremely violent and extremely sudden blitz attacks, without actually an awful lot of sexual behaviour accompanied in them.”
Professor Laurence Alison, Forensic Psychologist
Sutcliffe’s first known attack occurs in the early hours of 4 July 1975 in Keighly. Anna Patricia Rogulskyj is a good-looking divorcee. After an argument with her boyfriend, she has come back to his house. It’s around 1:30 in the morning. But as she bangs on his door, it becomes obvious he’s not in.
As she considers her options, Sutcliffe sneaks up behind Anna. He employs what will become his signature. He first disables her by beating her round the head with a ball-peen hammer. Once she’s stunned to the ground, he lifts up her skirt and goes to work on her with a knife. She is mercifully unconscious as he slashes and mutilates her genitalia and stomach.
Then Anna’s neighbour disturbs him. The dark covers the scene and Sutcliffe manages to reassure the man that all is well. As soon as he leaves, Sutcliffe slinks away.
A passerby sees her. She’s rushed to casualty. Doctors work on her for twelve hours. She’s read the last rites.
But Anna survives.
Six other women would survive Sutcliffe’s attacks. Some would be told they were lucky to be alive. Left physically and emotionally scarred and forever changed, not all would agree.
Anna spends the next 33 years alone, behind a barricade of bars, wires and alarms.
After the Anna attack, Sutcliffe returned to his sleeping wife and awoke the next day ready to look for work.
Over a month later, on Friday 15 August, Sutcliffe drives his friend Birdsall to Halifax for a few drinks. His eyes lock onto 46-year-old Olive Smelt. The married mother of two is out with her girlfriends for her regular Friday night drinks. Her husband is home doing the childminding.
She goes home before midnight. Sutcliffe follows with Birdsall in the car. He leaves his friend and intercepts her in an alleyway. Before smashing her with a hammer he says,
“Weather’s letting us down isn’t it?”
Stunned and grounded, he then slashes at her backside with his knife. But an approaching car prevents him finishing. He returns to Birdsall.
Olive never returns to normal.
In September Peter starts regular work as a delivery driver.
His third attack is also in August. She will be his youngest victim.
On a warm summer’s evening, 27 August 1975, 14-year-old, Tracy Browne is walking to her home in Silsden village. An unassuming Sutcliffe walks past her. He dawdles until she catches him up. Pretending to be a local, he walks by her side for over 30 minutes. Then, just before her home, he pulls out his hammer.
She remembers him grunting from the force of the blows.
To this day, I can hear those ugly grunts. But amazingly, I never lost consciousness throughout it all.
The headlights of an approaching car disturb him and save Tracy.
So, so far the harlot hating Sutcliffe has managed to attack a divorcee, a married mother of two and a schoolgirl.
On the evening of 29 October Wilomena McCann, or Wilma to her friends, a 28-year-old Scottish mother of four, is drinking heavily. After closing time, she tries to hitch home.
Sutcliffe picks her up.
He dumps her sexually assaulted and mutilated body close to her home.
At 5am, two of her daughters are found sitting nearby at a bus stop. They’re waiting for their mum.
During the 1970s, the British economy reels from global shocks.
Many families struggle.
Emily Jackson and her husband, Sydney, are close to losing their family home. They’ve agreed she needs to prostitute herself. They’re desperate that their three children don’t realise how much trouble their roofing business is in.
Emily now uses the company van to service clients in the streets and car parks of Leeds.
But on Tuesday night, 20 January 1976, she gets into the Sutcliffe’s car.
Sutcliffe stabs her over 50 times with a screwdriver. Once she’s dead, still enraged, he stamps on her leg.
Sutcliffe’s attacks start to wear him out. He finds it hard to wake up for work. And on 5 March 1976, he’s fired from his delivery job.
It’s 4am on the morning of 9 May 1976. A prostitute, 20-year-old Marcella Claxton, walks home from a party in Chapeltown. Sutcliffe picks her up and takes her to a field. As she urinates, he hammers her head twice. She’s conscious as he stands over her bleeding body masturbating. Finished, he places a £5 note in her hand and warns her not to call the police.
She calls an ambulance.
She has 52 stitches. Her wounds heal but she never recovers.
That October, Sutcliffe secures regular lorry driving work.
Irene Richardson is a 28-year-old prostitute. Like most in her profession, she knows someone is preying on them. But also like most in her profession, she has no choice. She’s close to homeless and so broke that her two children are with foster parents.
Sutcliffe smashes her skull so severely it penetrates her brain.
His savage stabbing disembowels her.
He covers her body with her coat.
After Irene’s death, the press nickname the killer, ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’. But a prostitute killer isn’t considered of general public interest. Media attention soon moves on.
Patricia Atkinson likes to be called Tina and likes to drink. The divorced mother of three is a prostitute who only works from her flat. As all the attacks have taken place outside, she feels safe as she lets Sutcliffe in.
He hammers the back of her head. This time, he can’t be disturbed. This time, he uses a chisel. He stabs her six times.
On 26 April, 16-year-old shop assistant, Jayne MacDonald, having missed her bus and having failed to find a taxi, is walking home past a playground.
Sutcliffe delivers three quick blows to her head. He drags her onto waste ground. He then repeatedly stabs her to death.
“Prior to that point, the fear, if you like, had been exclusively felt by working prostitutes. But from Jayne McDonald on there was this feeling that no woman was safe.”
Henry Matthews, Former Journalist
“My own sisters used to walk around with knives in their bag, in their handbags although they were probably the safest people on the planet from the Yorkshire Ripper. But they had no idea that it was our brother Peter.”
The public panic has little effect on Sutcliffe. In the early hours of 10 July, it’s only a barking dog that interrupts Sutcliffe and stops him from ending the life of Maureen Long.
On 1 October, Sutcliffe makes a serious error. He pays Jean Jordan with a brand new £5 note from his pay packet. After killing her, he hides her body. Only later does he realise how incriminating the new bank note could be. He waits a week and after driving guests home from a housewarming party, he returns to the body.
Her handbag is missing. Furious and frustrated, he slashes at her decomposing body, creating 8-inch deep post mortem wounds.
“...to try and persuade the police that this was not a Ripper killing; he tried to cut off Jean Jordan’s head.”
Henry Matthews, Former Journalist
But his hacksaw can’t cut through and he leaves, now frightened as well as frustrated.
On 14 December he agrees a price with Marilyn Moore. But his first hammer blow doesn’t stun her and her screams set off a dog barking.
Patched up at hospital, but still penniless and despite having a hole in her head from the ‘Ripper’, she soon returns to prostitution.
Sutcliffe kills Yvonne Pearson on 21 January 1978. Her body lies undiscovered until March.
Ten days later, he hammers 18-year-old Helen Rytka to the ground. He has sex with her as she bleeds. He then stabs her through her lungs and heart.
Her twin sister is also a prostitute. She fears the police and doesn’t report Helen missing for another two days.
After a ten-week lull, Sutcliffe meets 41-year-old Vera Millward, a Spanish born mother of seven. Vera’s in pain after an operation and has popped out for painkillers. Sutcliffe slashes her stomach so severely that she is disembowelled.
Her screams are heard by a father and son visiting the hospital. They ignore them.
The 11 following months of inactivity are because of Sutcliffe’s mother’s declining health. She dies from heart disease on 8 November 1978.
On Wednesday 4 April 1979, Sutcliffe ends his grieving period. Bank clerk Josephine Walker is returning at midnight from visiting her grandparents. He hammers her twice, and then stabs her 25 times.
On 1 September 1979, Bradford student Barbara Leach dies instantly from the first hammer blow. He dumps her stabbed body under a carpet.
Police interview Sutcliffe so many times that work mates nickname him ‘The Ripper’.
They are shocked and in disbelief when their colleague, who they always thought of as being a loving husband tells them he’s having an affair.
Sutcliffe admits he’s being leading a double life with a lady in Glasgow.
In April 1980, Sutcliffe is arrested.
But it is for drinking and driving.
His public affair threatens his marriage and his drink driving threatens his livelihood. Things are starting to unravel for Sutcliffe.
Civil servant, Marguerite Walls, is working late on the evening of 20 August 1980. She walks home along well-lit streets. She screams as Sutcliffe hammers her. Having forgotten his knife, he’s forced to strangle her.
His next two victims survive. His first is in September and is on a visiting Singaporean doctor, Upadhya Bandara
Unlike Tracy Browne, however, 16-year-old Theresa Sykes doesn’t find her youth a defence or time a healer. She and her family are never the same again after her November attack.
On a wet Monday, 17 November, Leeds student Jacqueline Hill passes Sutcliffe eating in Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had sat there when Upadhya Bandara passed by. He left and followed Jacqueline. She is very nearly home when he attacks.
He drags her behind some bushes and stabs and stabs. Even her eye is mutilated.
On Friday 2 January 1981 Sutcliffe picks up mother of two Olivia Reivers. By this stage, he’s incapable of being aroused without having first attacked the woman.
This time, he will not get the chance.